NEWCASTLE'S largest solar farm project has received a massive shot in the arm with millions in federal finance to flow towards the landmark proposal.
The Newcastle Herald can reveal the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will loan Newcastle City Council $6.5 million to get the project at Summerhill tip off the ground.
The council will also announce on Wednesday the successful builder, Lendlease, with construction expected to start in June. The project is expected to save council coffers an estimated $9 million over its 30-year life. And it is understood the CEFC loan would be paid back within seven years.
A source said the council would be about $250,000 a year better off over the life of the loan as the city would be generating its own electricity. The council said its annual electricity bill doubled to $4 million over the past two years.
“The solar farm will produce enough energy to run the equivalent of 1300 households, which promises significant environmental returns for ratepayers and millions of dollars in savings on electricity costs,” lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“We are building sustainability into everything we do after reiterating our commitment last year to generate 30 per cent of our electricity needs from low-carbon sources and cut overall electricity usage by 30 per cent by 2020.”
The project will cost $8 million all up, with the council to directly fund $1.5 million. The Joint Regional Planning Panel granted planning approval last month.
About 14,500 solar panels will be installed across an area the size of five football fields between Summerhill’s main entry road and the construction waste area.
It will be built on a capped landfill site that was once part of the Wallsend Borehole Colliery. Electricity would flow to a nearby substation to “offset” electricity used at council-owned facilities across the Newcastle local government area.
“Councils across Australia administer a vast network of streetlights, community centres, libraries, sport and recreation facilities and other public access buildings,” CEFC chief executive Ian Learmonth said.
“Newcastle is leading the way in financing a solar farm through the CEFC to help it manage the energy costs of these facilities.”
Lendlease will work with Energy Made Clean, which is owned by Western Australia-based company Carnegie Clean Energy, to design and build the facility.
The company was chosen from a field of 18.
The CEFC was established by the Gillard Government in 2012 and is wholly owned by the federal government.
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